Saturday, April 25, 2009

Cat of the Week: Cleo

"Cleo" of Mount Washington peeping out from behind a rose bush in her garden next to Elyria Canyon Park:

Mt. Washington

One of my early blog posts included pictures of the new-age Self-Realization Fellowship's serene Lakeside Shrine and Meditation Gardens in Pacific Palisades. It turns out that the Fellowship's administrative headquarters are also located in Los Angeles in the pleasant Mount Washington neighborhood a couple miles north of downtown. The grounds of the headquarters are surrounded by beautiful gardens that are open to the public.

Here is a view of the sundial garden with the downtown skyline in the background:

One of the Fellowship's administrative buildings is the old Mount Washington Hotel, which the Fellowship's founder Paramahansa Yogananda purchased in 1925. The hotel operated as a fancy resort from its construction in 1909 until 1921. There used to be an incline electric railway that brought guests up Mt. Washington to the hotel from downtown. Here is the old hotel building:

The hotel's lovely tennis courts:

Like the grounds at the Lakeside Shrine in Pacific Palisades, the gardens in Mount Washington are beautifully landscaped with lush greenery and flowers:

The gardens have lots of nice little benches and seats for meditation, reflection, picnics, and outdoor meetings:

More information about the history of the Mount Washington electric railway and the Mt. Washington Hotel is available at the Electric Railroad Historical Association of Southern California website.

Walk number 37 in my favorite book Walking L.A. covers the Self-Realization Fellowship grounds and the nearby Elyria Canyon Park which has some little trails with pretty views. Elyria Canyon park is "rustic" and kind of isolated so I would not recommend walking there alone. Here is a map showing the entrance to the Fellowship grounds and the entrance to the park:

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Saturday, April 18, 2009

The Pope of Broadway Mural

Los Angeles artist Eloy Torres painted this 70 foot tall mural on Broadway and 3rd St. in downtown L.A. in 1985 for the Victor Clothing Company. The mural, which is entitled "The Pope of Broadway," depicts the legendary Mexican-American actor and artist Anthony Quinn.

The architectural details in the background of the mural are inspired by the interior of the Victorian-era Bradbury Building across the street.

Union Station

Union Station in downtown Los Angeles serves as the city's main train, metro, and bus transit hub. The station, which was built between 1934 and 1939 by a team of architects including John and Donald Parkinson, was the last of the great rail passenger depots built in the United States.

At the end of the 19th century, many Californian artists and writers romanticized the eras of Spanish and Mexican rule, which they envisioned as an idealized, pastoral time before the arrival of the Yankees and the beginning of the industrial age. This interest in the past encouraged Californians to begin conserving, restoring, and then emulating the style of the old Spanish missions. By the early 20th century, the Mission Revival style, which drew inspiration from the missions' tiled roofs, curved archways, arcades, and unadorned white plaster surfaces, was the most popular architectural style in California.

In Union Station, the architects combined traditional Mission Revival forms with a modern, streamlined, Art Deco aesthetic. The main waiting hall has a floor made with inlaid marble and teracotta tiles, 6 iron chandeliers weighing 3000 lbs. each, and original leather Art Deco arm chairs:

A detail of one of the black iron chandeliers and the intricately painted ceiling. The ceiling appears to be constructed of traditional beamed wood, but is actually made of concrete that was painted to resemble wood:

The station is decorated throughout with glossy marble and tile work:

Union Station's integration of indoor and outdoor space is unusually successful for a large urban train station. Doors along both sides of the main waiting hall open out to pleasant outdoor courtyards. The North courtyard's tables, chairs, and benches are an ideal spot for lunch and the South courtyard (pictured below) is a more formal rose garden:

Detail of a tiled bench in the North courtyard:

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Saturday, April 11, 2009

Griffith Park Observatory

Griffith J. Griffith (1850-1919) was a Welsh immigrant who made a fortune in mining in Southern California at the end of the 19th Century. In 1896, he donated 3,015 acres of his land to the City of Los Angeles to establish a public park that is five times the size of NYC's Central Park. In 1903, Griffith shot his wife during a dispute and he subsequently served 2 years in San Quentin for attempted murder. After his release, he donated money to the city to build a grand public observatory in the park. Architect John C. Austin (1870-1963) built the observatory in 1935 on the West slope of Mount Hollywood overlooking the Los Angeles basin.

Here is a view of the Griffith Observatory from Los Feliz with the peak of Mount Hollywood to the right:

The exterior of the observatory was originally going to be decorated with elaborate teracotta tiles. However, after the Long Beach earthquake of 1933 caused extensive damage to many local tiled buildings, the architects revised the design and built the observatory in plain reinforced concrete.

The Public Works of Art Project, one of the federally funded New Deal initiatives, comissioned the Astronomers Monument in front of the observatory in 1933. The monument was designed by Los Angeles artist Archibald Garner and includes depictions of the six great astronomers: Hipparchus (about 150 B.C.), Nicholas Copernicus (1473-1543), Galileo Galilei (1564-1642), Johannes Kepler (1571-1630), Isaac Newton (1642-1727), and William Herschel (1738-1822).

Here is the copper-plated dome of the central planetarium with the downtown skyline in the background:

A view of the dome that houses the nighttime viewing telescope:

The dome that houses the solar telescopes:

The interior rotunda is decorated with murals painted in 1935 by Hugo Ballin (1879-1956) depicting the history of science:

A detail of the panel "Navigation":

Trails from the observatory lead up to the peak of Mount Hollywood with views over Los Angeles and the San Fernando Valley on the other side of the hills. Here is a view from the Mount Hollywood trail looking back down to the observatory:

Many movies and television shows have been filmed at the observatory but the first major movie that the observatory starred in was "Rebel Without a Cause." In front of the observatory, there is a 1955 bronze bust of James Dean by artist Kenneth Kendall:

The observatory underwent a major renovation between 2002 and 2006 and is now open to the public again. I highly recommend that tourists to Los Angeles and people who just moved to Los Angeles visit the Griffith Observatory. Admission to the building and exhibits are free but there is a fee for planetarium shows. The telescopes are open to the public free of charge on clear nights. Be warned that there is limited parking and the observatory tends to get very crowded on weekends. If you drive on a weekend, arrive early or take a shuttle from Los Feliz.

The Griffith Observatory is very kid-friendly with lots of interactive exhibits, shows, etc ...

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Friday, April 10, 2009

Cat of the Week: Monkey

"Monkey" of Culver City was slightly suspicious of the camera:

Thursday, April 9, 2009

Central Public Library

The 1925 Central Library in Los Angeles, designed by architect Bertram Goodhue (1869-1924), is a beautiful example of early Art Deco architecture. Goodhue had a successful career building neo-gothic churches at the turn of the century and he transitioned to an Art Deco style in the 1920s at the end of his career. In the Central Library, he used modern building techniques in combination with motifs inspired by ancient Egypt, Greece, Rome, and Byzantium.

The library is constructed with reinforced concrete and has a central pyramid that is decorated with mosaics. Here is a view of the West side of the library from Flower Street with the Maguire Gardens and Fountain in the foreground:
Architectural sculptor Lee Lawrie (1877-1963), who is probably most famous for his giant bronze sculpture of Atlas on 5th Avenue at Rockefeller Center in NYC, decorated the exterior of the Central Library. Here is a closer look at his work on the West entrance:

The frieze over the door depicts a symbolic race with two horsemen passing the flame of knowledge:

The South side of the building includes several Lee Lawrie busts representing History (the Greek historian Herodotus), Letters (the classical Roman poet Virgil), Philosophy (Socrates), Statescraft (the Byzantian Emperor Justinian), Art (Leonardo Da Vinci), and Science (Nicolaus Copernicus). Here is Virgil on the left and a very grumpy looking Socrates on the right:

The South entrance on Hope Street is flanked by Lee Lawrie's "The Thinker" (a Greek artist embodying Reflection) and "The Writer" (an Egyptian scribe embodying Expression):

The interior rotunda is decorated with a chandelier and murals painted in 1932 by the artist Dean Cornwell who was a successful American poster and magazine illustrator. The murals depict the "Four Great Eras of California History" (from the conqueror's perspective): Discovery, Mission Building, Americanization, and the Founding of Los Angeles.

The "Mission Building" mural:

Details from the "Discovery" mural:

The chandelier in the rotunda is made of cast bronze and is part of a model solar system which includes the blue and green glass globe of the earth, planet and moon ornaments on the chains, and a sunburst pattern on the dome's ceiling:

A view of the children's section which has a beautiful painted ceiling and a series of large 1928 murals by Albert Herter also depicting the history of California:

The quote above the North entrance on 5th Street is from a 1345 treatise on books and libraries called the "Philobiblion" by English bishop and bibliophile Richard de Bury: "Books alone are liberal and free; they give to all who ask; they emancipate all who serve them faithfully."

The Central Library contains many more sculptures, fountains, murals, and mosaics. The following links have more photos and information about the Central Library's art and architecture:
Los Angeles Public Library
Public Art in LA
Big Orange Landmarks

If you are walking around downtown L.A., the library is a great place to stop for a rest. There is a nice shop with books and gifts related to L.A. and libraries, an inexpensive cafeteria, outdoor gardens, galleries with pretty good exhibits, and a nice children's section. Here is the location of the library:

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Wednesday, April 8, 2009

Kenneth Hahn Park

Trails from the parking lot at the Kenneth Hahn State Recreation Area climb up one of the few hills in the middle of the Los Angeles basin. From the top, you can see the defining elements of L.A.'s landscape: the curved bay in the West, the Hollywood Hills to the North, and the towering snow-capped mountains to the East. A vast grid of small single-family houses and mini-malls occupies the basin and extends South as far as the eye can see. L.A.'s high rise buildings are clustered along the 16 mile Wilshire Corridor that stretches from downtown to Santa Monica.

Here is a view of the downtown skyline:
A view across the basin looking North to the hills:

At the bottom of the hill, Hahn Park is crowded and fun. There are picnic and barbeque areas, soccer and baseball fields, basketball courts, kids biking and rolling down grassy hills, and competing music from speakers and mariachi bands. People can feed ducks and fish in the landscaped streams, waterfalls, and lakes.

Dr. Dre and Snoop Dogg filmed the music video for the classic 1993 "Nuthin' but a 'G' Thang" at one of the picnic areas in Hahn Park:

For the first half of the 20th Century, this whole park was an active oil field. After an accident in 1968, most of the pumps were shut down and conservationists and neighbors turned the area into a park. There are still a number of active oil pumps on the adjacent hillside:

We suspected there might be gophers when we saw a bunch of kids gathered around a hole throwing food down it. Then we saw this little one popping his head out:

The park is located in Baldwin Hills - be warned that parking costs $4 on weekends and holidays.

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